Brussels tells Owen Bonnici to provide timetable for Malta reforms on rule of law

EU justice commissioner writes to justice minister Owen Bonnici to accelerate process of rule of law reforms identified by Venice Commission

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici

The European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, has written to Malta’s justice minister Owen Bonnici calling on him to secure “an effective and autonomous prosecution service with clear protections from the risk of political interference.”

The letter from the Belgian comes just days since outgoing PM Joseph Muscat attended his last European Council summit.

Reynders said EC president Ursola von der Leyen had expressed the Commission’s concern about recent developments in Malta with the probe into the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination implicating Muscat’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri.

“The continue concerns surrounding the investigation have put the spotlight on a number of more systemic issues,” Reynders said of the state of rule law in Malta and the shared responsibility of EU member states to have a common interest in resolving problems.

Malta was shown to have various issues to deal with on its judiciary, the fight against corruption, and the checks and balances it employs, raised by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and Greco, as well as the Commission itself.

Tomorrow MEPs will also debate a resolution on rule of law concerns in Malta, with a vote to be taken on Thursday.

“These recommendations provide a clear roadmap to progress. I know that the Maltese government recognises the need for reform and that first steps have been taken. Bt the the recent controversies have underlined that progress should accelerate, for example on securing an effective and autonomous prosecution service with clear protection from the risk of political interference,” Reynders said.

The Commissioner called on Bonnici to “give the impetus and political priority to accelerate the reforms”, by providing a timetable as the best way to make clear the government’s commitment, and to consult the Venice Commission on all draft laws to address the problems identified.